Opening Words from Sun. March 22 by Arlene Nickels

Good morning! My name is Arlene Nickels. I was born in the city of St. Louis in 1936 – I‘m 79 years old! We lived with my paternal grandparents in a small house in Walnut Park on the city’s north side, on Plover Avenue. In Walnut Park, many of the streets were named for birds; Plover, Wren, Robin, Oriole. Walnut Park at this time was a nice blue-color neighborhood (to orient you, the city of Jennings is to the north, Baden to the east, the intersection of West Florissant and Goodfellow Avenues).

I was an only child for almost ten years, until my brother was born, but that was okay because there were always lots of children with whom to play. There was no air conditioning at this time, and few people had television sets, so children played outdoors all seasons and in all weather. Boys and girls played together, every possible game and even put on shows in the summer. It was a fine neighborhood in which to grow up. I attended St. Louis public schools which were good, but public schools were segregated, as were some public facilities. I never went to school with any black children.

There were no swimming pools in my neighborhood, so in the summer we went as a group by bus to Fairgrounds Park to swim. Fairgrounds Park is at Grand Avenue and Natural Bridge. The park has a large, lovely round swimming pool and we had great fun there. Something memorable for me about these excursions was that black children were not allowed to swim in Fairgrounds Park pool, a segregated public venue, so black children stood outside the fence and longingly watched while we white children swam. It is an image that has stayed with me all these years.